I have done a lot work on myself to gain greater clarity. I have taken inventory and looked more deeply to understand my weaknesses as well as my strengths. It has been important to look within and not to be judgmental of myself. There is no one person who can be everything and so I can’t expect that of myself.
I used to be very critical and judgmental of others. Cultural and self-righteous religious programming taught me to look at others and be critical of their choices if those choices brought negative results to them. I would be critical if those results were in opposition to what I wanted for myself. I would be critical if I could not understand why they would even make that choice when it seemed obvious to me that the results would be negative. Who was I to judge?
While I was being critical and judgmental toward others, I was making major choices and decisions that brought me shame, embarrassment and guilt. I became so bogged down in my own messy choices, that I did not have time to be so critical of others. The criticism turned inward. Many of my choices were not only hurtful, embarrassing and shameful to me; they were shameful and also brought heartache to my family.
I know it is not easy to walk around carrying the weight of guilt and shame. It is a little easier when the results of your actions can be hidden. If those actions and decisions directly involve others, you feel the weight of your actions even more. It gets pretty heavy. It becomes harder to move forward. Shame and guilt are not easy to carry; they slow down the progress of your life.
I believe it is easier to ask others to forgive you than to forgive yourself because you cannot walk away from yourself. You cannot avoid looking yourself in the mirror every day. Those results are yours. You live with them day in and day out. Those results affect your body, they affect your environment. They affect the people you live with and are around every day either directly or indirectly. Whatever affects you, affects those who are close to you. Emotionally they carry your burdens with you.
I knew I had to do something about my guilt and shame. Although the answer was simple, I found it hard. So often during this time, I would ask God for forgiveness. I would ask my family for forgiveness. The one person that I failed to ask for forgiveness was me. I held myself accountable. I held myself in judgment. I could not move forward without forgiving myself.
When I was able to forgive myself, it gave me a different way of looking at the world and a different view of others. I began to see me in others. There is a saying by those who have come to see themselves in others that goes like this: “But for the grace of God, go I.” You understand the meaning of this phrase when you have fallen from grace yourself. You realize that it could easily have been you making that same mistake or choice. You become more understanding of the plight of others and how easy it is by one choice to fall from grace.
Putting myself in the place of others, keeps me in a place of forgiveness, tolerance and compassion. It has been a long hard road from thinking that because of my religious beliefs that I had some inside track to perfection or that I was immune to bad choices. There is no such thing. But all things work out for good. We just have to look for the good within it. I believe we sometimes put labels on choices and then pressure ourselves to act or react based upon the labels. We forgive or not based upon our personal findings and determinations on depth of the errors.
I also came to realize that when I judged others, I used myself as the basis of that judgement, particularly when I would say, “I would not do that.” I felt the need to minimize judgment when I realized that I was making myself the criteria upon which I judged others. The truth was and is that I don’t really know what I would do if I was in that other person’s situation. And based upon my past decisions and choices, I am in no position to cast judgment.
I want to live in a nonjudgmental space. I want to allow others to live their lives and make their choices as I make mine. I want to be forgiving of my fellowman as I would hope to be forgiven. And then I want to forgive myself and not hold myself or others hostage to guilt and shame. I want to remind myself that all things will work out for good because there is good in everything, even the perceived bad choices that I have made. I just have to look for it.